In an apparent attempt to reach those who usually don't pay much attention to the economy, USA Today sent out a tweet Thursday afternoon in the wake of the government's report earlier in the day that the U.S. economy contracted by an annualized 1.0 percent — on its weather feed.
I guess we should be grateful that the tweet at least only "partly" blamed the weather.
Let's look at some history. The related data can be found here (select "Section 1 - Domestic Product and Income"; the select "Table 1.1.1. Percent Change From Preceding Period in Real Gross Domestic Product").
Here are all of the first quarter contractions in the past 50 years: 2011, 2009, 2008, 2001, 1991, 1982, 1975, 1974, and 1970.
2011 wasn’t blamed on weather, because after all initial revisions, the government had the quarter's growth pegged at an annualized +1.9 percent. Comprehensive revisions in July 2012 and 2013 (Table 2A at link) took that quarter's result down first to an annualized +0.1 percent, and then to -1.3 percent.
The contraction in 2009 occurred during the previous official recession. Nobody blamed the weather for the decline in the first quarter of 2008, which was followed by a positive second quarter.
All of the other first-quarter contractions occurred partially or entirely during officially declared recessions.
1977 and 1978 (especially 1978) were noteworthy for extraordinary low temperatures and brutal storms which shut down entire regions of the country for days. During those two winters, the thermometer hit -24 and -25 for real (without wind chill) in Cincinnati. The Ohio River froze in one of those two years. GDP growth was an annualized 4.7% and 1.4% in 1Q77 and 1Q78, respectively.
Even the global warming promoters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can't make a case that this past winter was somehow unprecedented, though the headline about their findings at Weather.com clearly intends to make readers believe that they have:
NOAA: Winter 2013-2014 Among Coldest on Record in Midwest; Driest, Warmest in Southwest
Winter 2013-2014 was one of the coldest on record in parts of the Midwest, according to the government's official monthly climate report released Thursday.
NOAA's National Climatic Data Center said that the period from December 2013 through February 2014 was the 34th coldest such period for the contiguous 48 states as a whole since modern records began in 1895.
Let's see now. That's 34th out of 120. 2014 didn't even crack the top one-fourth worst winters ever.
Meanwhile, the map above shows that the past winter in California, the nation's largest state economy with about 12 percent of the U.S. population, was its warmest on record.
But USA Today wants its low-information weather followers to believe that the economy contracted during the first quarter "partly" because of the 34th worst winter on record. Horse manure.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.